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A 5-Point Plan to Put the Brakes on Your Cat-chasing Dog

Posted on: September 28th, 2007 by

Posted by Amy Shojai on 9/28/2007 in Training Tips Articles

Does your dog chase your cat? More than 40 percent of pet lovers keep multiple pets. While they often get along famously, some dogs treat the family feline like a windup toy. Constant chasing turns even easy-going cats into nervous wrecks, and even dogs who mean no harm may accidentally injure a cat or kitten.

Personalities predict success. Some dog breeds are naturally less predatory than others while some cats may be more tolerant of pestering canines. However, terrier and sight hound breeds are genetically hard-wired to chase scurrying critters. Fleeing by a cat can trigger predatory aggression in some dogs of these breeds.

It’s vital that owners educate their dogs on the rules of the house to maintain harmony. To successfully achieve this, all members of the house must be consistent in reinforcing good doggy manners. Here, we offer a five-point plan to put the brakes on your cat-chasing dog. Before each training session, make sure you have a leash, plenty of treats and, of course, lots of patience.

1. Ensure your cat’s safety by keeping your dog under leash control inside your house during “canine class” time. Prevent ANY chase from taking place. Use a long leash so that you can quickly step on it at the first sign that your dog is about to dash after your cat. Even if your cat instigates the session (some cats tease dogs unmercifully), don’t allow any chase or tag games until after your dog has learned proper manners.

2. Keep an abundant supply of aromatic-beckoning, tasty treats handy so that you are ready to reinforce no chasing by your dog at the presence of a cat. These special treats should only be used for cat-proofing lessons and should be small enough that your dog needs only a chew or two to enjoy and swallow and be ready to heed your next treat-dispensing cue.

3. Give your dog a treat every time your cat makes an appearance. Reinforce good behavior by coming up with an easy-to-remember phrase, such as, “Cookie, cat!” and when your dog stays sitting – without chasing your cat – deliver a treat. Offer this payday whether your dog acts calm, excited, merely looks at your cat, barks, or anything else. The goal is to have your dog comprehend this cause-and-effect equation: a cat’s presence equals tasty treats.

4. Use a leash to keep your dog a safe distance from your cat – but do not use the leash to force your dog’s attention or behavior into what you want him to do. Let his brain process the equation in his own time. Some dogs “get it” right away, and others take longer. Within a few sessions, nearly every dog should start looking to you for a treat each time they hear, “Cookie, cat!” or your cat appears. Rather than lunging and chasing instinctively, your dog should be learning to stay and expect a reward.

5. Reinforce this behavior for at least a week or two in mini-sessions a few times a day. The sessions need only to be a few minutes in duration – but no more than 10 minutes – because it’s difficult for some dogs, especially young ones, to maintain attention. Brush up with more training sessions as needed.

Final advice: Make sure your dog stays leashed or separated from your cat when you are not able to supervise their interactions until you are confident that your dog’s desire to give chase has definitely been stopped in its tracks.

Achoo! Tactics to Fend Off Pet Allergies

Posted on: September 20th, 2007 by

Posted by Arden Moore on 9/20/2007 in Lifestyle

Sneezing. Runny nose. Itchy, swollen eyes. Rash.

When most of us touch and pet the coats of our dogs or cats, it’s a pleasurable experience. But some unfortunates — approximately 1 in 5 people — suffer from allergies that are set off when they touch an animal or even when they’re simply in the same room with them.

“It’s probably more common to be allergic to cats, and cats also are more clinically significant because they tend to spend more time indoors and find their way onto the bedding more often,” says Oren P. Schaefer, an allergist and associate professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

Although most people blame a pet’s fur for triggering their allergies, the real cause is the proteins found in hair, saliva, urine and dander (dead skin flakes). The body views these proteins as foreign and manufactures antibodies against them. Those antibodies produce itchy eyes or runny noses – hallmarks of an allergy.

People who love pets but suffer from allergies are constantly on the prowl for a pet that won’t set off their symptoms. A number of dog and cat breeds are believed to be hypoallergenic. Among them are poodles, bichons frise, greyhounds, soft-coated wheaten terriers and Siberian cats.

The disappointing truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or cat. All animals produce dander, even hairless ones, and of course, they all produce saliva and urine.

Scientists don’t know why some people seem to be allergic to some dogs and cats, but not to others.

“Some people say, ‘Well, I’m not allergic to my cat or dog’ or ‘I’m allergic to German Shepherds, but not spaniels’ and what I tell them is ‘dogs are dogs,’ ” Dr. Schaefer says. “They all have the basic antigen – it’s identical. That said, some make more antigen than others, and some houses are cleaner than others from an allergic point of view, so there are a lot of reasons people might have trouble at the neighbor’s house and not their house and vice versa.”

One reason people might react less to a particular breed is the amount of grooming it receives. Frequent bathing and grooming can temporarily reduce the amount of dander produced.

Another reason is related to physiological changes that affect hair growth. Dogs with longer hair-growth cycles, such as poodles, may shed dead surface cells more uniformly than short-coated breeds, which shed frequently.

Size is another factor to consider. Big dogs simply produce more dander than small dogs.

In the case of Siberian cats, they appear to produce less Fel d 1—the protein that causes cat allergies — than other cats. But not everyone is able to tolerate them.

“I do not guarantee that the person will not be allergic,” says Siberian breeder Karon Hansberger of Reigning Cats cattery in Clarksburg, Maryland. “I have had quite a few people who had mild allergies be able to have the Siberians, and I have had several tell me they are still having reactions. It’s hard to say why some can tolerate the Siberian and some cannot.”

The good news is that people with pet allergies can take steps to live with their affliction — without giving up their pets. Here are eight tactics to try:

* Minimize allergic reactions by brushing and bathing your pet frequently — a task best done by someone who’s not allergic.

* Keep your pet’s coat healthy with a good diet, regular grooming and parasite control. Anything that irritates the skin surface, such as biting, licking, scratching, external parasites, bacterial or fungal infections and hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism, can result in more dander.

* Use sprays or wipes — available at pet supply stores — that can help reduce the amount of dander on the pet’s body. Baby wipes may also work.

* Restrict your pet’s access to furniture and certain areas of the house, primarily your bedroom.

* Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.

* Install a HEPA air filter or air purifier if you have a cat.

* Keep over-the-counter antihistamines such as liquid or chewable Benadryl on hand to help control reactions, and ask your allergist about prescription antihistamines and decongestants that may help.

* Learn to love a contemporary décor: metal, leather and wood are better choices than fabric upholstery and carpet.

Help Overcome Depression with a Dog

Posted on: September 12th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Previously I have reported how I have personally witnessed people eliminate antidepressants by the simple act of obtaining a dog, especially a “lap” or household dog or cat. I have also shared how it is being scientifically documented and measured that pets can reduce and even eliminate mild depression.

Now, the National Women’s Health Resource Center and Support Partners has a national education campaign dedicated to people with depression, touting the benefits of a dog in overcoming depression. They suggest that petting your dog will help relieve stress and anxiety, taking your dog for a walk gives you exercise and relieves stress, and teaching your dog a new trick will give you a sense of accomplishment.

More and more social and healthcare professions are seeing the value of pets in helping to keep us healthy and improving our health when we are ill, stressed or depressed. Why is this important? Because the acknowledgment by national organizations and health care professionals will expand the access and awareness of the valuable role that pets play in our health. What more natural way to stay healthy and happy than by having the joy of owning a pet?

If you review some of my previous blogs you will see where I discuss the exact biochemical feedback mechanisms we experience when we are with our pets. How pets improve our health and well being by altering our biochemistry is still under investigation, and I will share the findings as they continue to develop. In summary a few benefits of pets are as follows:

The quiet interaction of petting a pet will lower your blood pressure, decrease your stress hormone and increase the levels of good hormones and neurotransmitters which will all help you feel better.

The simple act of watching fish in a fish tank will lower your blood pressure and decrease feelings of anxiety.

Interacting with your pet will increase your serotonin levels, which are instrumental to decreasing the feelings of depression.

Walking your pet will help you lose weight better than other traditional weight loss methods and improve your sense of well being.

According to a leading clinical psychologist, “While a doctor, family and friends should form the basis of a support network for clinically depressed individuals, dogs can play an important role by being a constant companion. Depression is often associated with strong social stigma, causing people to withdraw from their lives and intensifying the emotional symptoms of the illness.”

You and I know walking your dog will bring on more social contacts, make you feel better and help you lose weight, which are all beneficial to your emotional health and physical well being. Having a constant companion in your home will decrease the feeling of loneliness, provide you with activity that makes you feel needed and improve your biochemistry. So, take care of your buddies, and they will take care of you.

“Prescribe Pets Not Pills”

Pet Sitters: Questions to Ask Before You Go

Posted on: September 9th, 2007 by

Posted by Shannon Steffen on 8/9/2007 in Lifestyle

You want to leave on vacation, but what about Duke and Fluffy? For some, boarding kennels are a perfect solution for their pets to receive the care they need, but for others, they want their pet to receive more personalized care during their absence. For them, there is no better option than a pet sitter. Pet sitters come in two forms: the personal pet sitter and the professional pet sitter.

Personal Pet Sitters

Personal pet sitters are family, friends, and neighbors of the pet owner. When the owner goes out of town, these individuals come over to the house and provide the basic necessities for the pets in the household. This may include feedings, walks, play time, or simple clean up.

Some benefits of hiring personal pet sitters:

Pets are already familiar with family, friend, or neighbor.
The pets remain in their safe and secure environment. All sights, smells, and sounds are familiar.
Customary diets are maintained.
Exercise routine is not disrupted.
Medical treatments are easily given as the person is already well known.
The pets are not exposed to illnesses or parasites from other pets in other facilities.
There is no traveling in a car or crate required.
The pets receive personalized love and support while you are away from someone they already trust.
When choosing someone you know to provide personalized care for your pets, you will want to choose someone that is:

Comfortable with your pets
Friendly and familiar to your pets
Available to provide all the care your pets’ need
Prepared for the responsibility of taking care of your pets
Able to drive should emergency veterinary care be needed
Available to spend quality time with your pet
Some friends or family members may be willing to stay in your house while you are away. This provides the pet with a more personalized routine and adds a sense of security. Ask if they are comfortable with an in-house type of arrangement prior to outlining an “as needed” care routine.

When using a personal pet sitter, the owner should provide the following before leaving the pet:

Pet’s history and habits
List of immunizations, vaccines, and any recent medical conditions and medication
Schedule of routine for pet; including eating, sleeping, walks, and playing
Emergency contact information, include veterinarian information and business hours, as well as where you will be staying with phone numbers
Collar with identification tags to be worn by the pet while away
List of any rooms that are off limits to the pet
Money for any emergency care needed
Professional Pet Sitters

There are a number of benefits to hiring a professional pet sitter. When you are away, the pet sitter will visit your home to feed, care for and play with your pet. Since they will have a responsibility for both your home and your pet, you should seriously consider both the pros and cons of having someone in your home.

Before hiring a professional pet sitter, make sure time is allowed for a formal interview. Prepare questions ahead of time for a smooth and thorough. Review the services and fees closely, as each professional pet sitter varies.

A bonded pet sitter will have commercial liability insurance coverage and should be willing to provide both personal and professional references. Check the references and other documents prior to hiring the pet sitter and insist on an introduction time between your pet and the sitter to ensure that the person gets along with your pet.

Some benefits of hiring professional pet sitters:

The pet remains in his or its safe and secure environment. All sights, smells, and sounds are familiar, creating less stress on the pet.
Customary diets are maintained.
Exercise routine is not disrupted.
Medical treatments are easily given.
The pet is not exposed to illnesses or parasites from other pets.
There is no traveling in a car or crate required.
The pet receives personalized love and support while you are away.
Owners do not have to impose on a friend, family member or neighbor.
The home is made more secure by crime deterrent measures provided by most professional pet caregivers.
When using a professional pet sitter, the owner should provide the following before leaving the pet:

Pet’s history and habits
List of immunizations, vaccines, and any recent medical conditions
A schedule of routine for pet that includes eating, sleeping, walks, and playing
Emergency contact information. Include veterinarian information and business hours, as well as where you will be staying with phone numbers
Collar with identification tags to be worn by the pet while away
List of any rooms that are off-limits to the pet
If you have decided that a professional pet sitter is best for your pet, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) can help. NAPPS is a non-profit membership organization originally founded in 1989, to promote excellence among pet sitters and to serve as a voice for the expanding industry.

Professional Pet Sitters are easy to locate by zip code on their website at petsitters.org. Additionally, they provide an 800 number on their website for pet owners to contact them with any questions or concerns they may have about pet sitting.

Addressing Cat Bite Abscesses

Posted on: September 7th, 2007 by

Posted by Arnold Plotnick, DVM on 9/7/2007 in Scratching Post Articles

Although cats living together indoor occasionally fight over territory or for owner attention, it rarely leads to serious injury. However, when cats encounter other cats outdoors, fights are likely to occur – usually over territory.

A cat’s sharp teeth can produce puncture wounds when they bite. But the full damage goes beyond the wound due to the tremendous amount of bacteria inside a feline mouth.

Let’s run down the dangerous scenario:

The puncture wound seals quickly and bacteria injected into the skin become trapped.
The bone marrow sends out many white blood cells to help fight this infection.
The white blood cells and bacteria accumulate to form a painful pocket of pus just beneath the skin.
This collection of pus is an abscess. Abscesses are common in cats, owing to the tough, elastic nature of feline skin, which readily seals over contaminated puncture wounds, allowing for pus to accumulate beneath the skin.
Trauma and infection are not the only concerns regarding cat bite injuries. Feline feuds can result in the transmission of several life threatening infectious diseases from one cat to the other. Examples include feline leukemia (FeLV) virus, feline immunodeficiency (FIV) virus, Bartonella and rabies. Even worse: some of these infectious diseases, particularly Bartonella and rabies pack zoonotic powers – meaning that these infections can be transmitted to humans.

The diagnosis of an abscess is based on history and physical examination findings by your veterinarian. Top candidates for abscesses are cats who spend time outdoors, especially intact males who are more likely to roam and tussle over turf rights than neutered males or spayed females.

Unfortunately, detecting bites in a cat can be difficult because cats often appear to look fine after an encounter. Over the next two to four days after a fight, bacteria deposited in the wound begin to multiply. The cat develops a fever, becomes lethargic and often stops eating. Many cats are taken to the veterinarian at this stage, where the abscess appears as either a firm or soft painful swelling.

If not discovered in this early stage, the abscess will continue to swell, burrowing through tissues and accumulating more pus. The abscess may then burst through the overlying skin, releasing creamy yellow or brownish, often foul-smelling pus. Overlying hair may become matted with dried discharge.

Common locations for abscesses are the face and neck, tail, back and legs – although any part of the body can be bitten during a fight. If a bite wound occurs in a location that does not have much loose skin, such as a leg, the infection can dissect its way through the tissues, causing diffuse swelling instead of a discrete collection of pus. This diffuse swelling is called cellulitis.

The goal of treatment is to prevent further contamination by cleaning the wound, removing dead tissue and treating for infection. The earlier a cat receives treatment, the better the chance that the wound will heal without complication.

In most cases, a cat is anesthetized so an incision can be made into the abscess. The wound is then flushed with an antibacterial solution to further remove pus and other debris. If detected and addressed at an early stage, lancing and flushing (plus antibiotics) may be all that is required.

If discovered at a later stage, where significant tissue damage has occurred beneath the skin, your veterinarian may need to debride the wound (that is, remove dead or compromised tissue). In some cases, the veterinarian may find it necessary to insert a drain (a piece of soft rubber tubing that exits at the lowest point of the wound) to allow any future accumulation of fluid or pus to escape.

After debriding – if the wound is large – sutures may be required to partially close it, however, most wounds are left open to drain and heal on their own. Very large skin defects may require some type of reconstructive skin surgery after the infection has resolved. Once an abscess is opened up so that pus can drain, most cats immediately begin feeling better.

Antibiotics are vital because oral bacteria are literally injected below the skin during the biting process and nearly all of these wounds are infected. Penicillin derivatives are the antibiotics of choice. Pus that has a particularly putrid smell usually indicates that anaerobic bacteria – bacteria that thrive in environments where oxygen is low or absent – are involved in the infection. In these cases, antibiotics known to be effective against anaerobes should be administered. A short course – perhaps 5 to 10 days – is typically all that is required.

Occasionally, some bite wound infections do not respond to initial antibiotic therapy, and a bacterial culture and sensitivity test may be required to determine which specific bacteria are infecting the wound and which antibiotics are most effective.

The prognosis for a properly treated abscess is excellent. Yet, cats who engage in frequent fights are at high risk for contracting serious illnesses, such as FeLV and FIV. Cats who contract these viruses may then spread them to other cats in future encounters.

Cats with FeLV or FIV also have weakened defenses against infection, and may have difficulty defeating an infection if bitten by other cats. Outdoor cats should be regularly tested for these viruses. Although the majority of cats will test positive within several weeks of being bitten by an infected cat, a cat that tests negative should be retested no sooner than 90 days after exposure, to rule out false negative results obtained during incubation of the virus.

Cats who go outdoors should also be current on their vaccinations, especially rabies and FeLV. A vaccine against FIV was introduced several years ago and is gaining popularity.

The best prevention is to keep your cat indoors – supervising his outdoor access by teaching him tolerate a harness and walk on a leash or provide him with a safe and sturdy outdoor enclosure. Neutering will also reduce a male cat’s desire to roam and get into fights.

Signs of an Abscess

Cats tend to mask pain. Please give your cat a thorough head-to-tail inspection each day and consult your veterinarian if your cat exhibits any of these signs:

Lethargy
Poor or absent appetite
Visible puncture wounds
Swelling or lump on skin
Limping (may indicate a bite on a leg)
Pain or reluctance to be picked up or touched
Fever (a healthy cat’s temperature ranges between 100 and 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
Swollen lymph nodes